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‘Overdue and great news’: FDA approves first vaccine for RSV

BOSTON — The FDA has approved the first vaccine for RSV, made by GSK.

“Anyone who cares for adults in the hospital or cares for children in the hospital know that there’s a significant number of hospitalizations every year with RSV and this is before we had COVID we knew that,” said Dr. Paul Sax, Clinical Director of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Dr. Sax says it’s big news to learn the FDA has approved a vaccine for RSV since scientists have been working on one for decades.

“This is overdue and great news,” said Christine Frithsen, a mother of two young children, who also works in a nursing home.

Frithsen has seen the devastating impact of RSV on senior citizens especially this last winter.

“Sometimes they would need to be put on a ventilator temporarily, respirator to help them breathe but then bouncing back from that, it’s a long road to just rebuild your endurance,” said Frithsen.

That’s why she and many others are glad to hear an RSV vaccine has been approved for adults over the age of 60, and it’ll likely roll out later this year.

Many now question whether an RSV vaccine for children will be approved, since many of them are diagnosed with the respiratory virus.

“The really vulnerable population are the babies,” said Dr. Sax.

Dr. Sax says infants and senior citizens with underlying conditions are most at risk for severe cases of RSV that can cause pneumonia and even be deadly.

Young children aren’t as risky as those two age groups, so scientists are already working on an RSV vaccine for pregnant women as well.

“When it’s given to pregnant women, it induces high level of antibody in the pregnant women that they then pass on to their babies, and the babies are then protected from getting severe RSV,” said Dr. Sax.

Dr. Sax says now that the GSK vaccine for RSV has been approved by the FDA, the CDC will need to make a recommendation on exactly who should get the shot.

That decision will likely come this summer.

“There are a lot of people in their 60′s and 70′s or 80′s who have significant underlying medical problems and they’re the people for whom RSV can be a significant problem, and I’d strongly recommend they get this vaccine,” said Dr. Sax.

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